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robin robins wheres the beefI’m sure that a certain younger reader will NOT understand that reference — so google it. Back in the ’80s, “Where’s THE BEEF?” was a hugely successful catchphrase that kicked off a flurry of memed merchandise and became as popular as the Staples Easy Button. For those who get it, I’m feeling more and more like old Clara Peller every time I see a direct mail piece, e-mail campaign, website, etc. I can’t help but ask, “Where’s the OFFER?”

As I write this, I’m looking at a pile of recent campaigns sent to me, many with decent messages and great timing — but NO OFFER. One of the packages mailed was a VERY expensive catalog for Land Rover printed full-color and on heavy cardboard. The seam was stitched with real thread instead of staples. The envelope a quality heavy card, blue linen. Inside was beautiful photography and poetic prose, quoting Nobel Prize recipients. NO expense was spared EXCEPT for a good copywriter who knew how to SELL something. It lacked even a map and phone number of the local Land Rover dealer.

If you don’t provide a compelling, enticing reason to respond NOW, you’re obliterating your chances of getting a response! So what makes a good offer? Well, let me give you a few pointers:

1. It should align with what you’re selling

Offering a free gift unrelated to the offer will draw a response, so it has to be used carefully. For example, at Boot Camp we gave away a free Yeti to attendees for going to our booth and inquiring about our Accelerators and the done-for-you services. In that scenario, 100 percent of the people we were making the offer to were qualified — so it worked well. However, I would NOT do that with a cold list or a group of prospects who I wasn’t absolutely certain were qualified.

At trade shows, many people offer Amazon or Amex gift cards, drones, video games, etc., to get the people walking around to give up their business card. IF the people are qualified, this is a good way of building a list — BUT you have to realize they gave you the card to get a free prize or money, NOT to get more info about your services. Therefore, your follow-up campaign can’t simply be an e-mail asking if they want to talk about your services. You will need to craft up a second campaign to build interest in and desire for what you sell — otherwise your freebie is a failure.

Our control has been the one-on-one marketing consultation because it allows us to build dissatisfaction, demonstrate our expertise, build value and urgency. BUT aligning with what you’re selling isn’t the only thing a good offer has. It also must have a …

2. HIGH perceived value

Here’s the acid test of an offer: would a prospect pay money to get it? If not, you need to go back and improve the offer. Even free offers need to be SOLD because you need to overcome the inertia of not needing the thing you’re selling and/or fighting other more pressing priorities. That’s why many of the sales letters I write are at least four pages. The offer needs to be SOLD. You cannot always do that with a postcard or a tweet. And finally, the offer needs to benefit the prospect EVEN IF THEY DON’T BUY. If you can clearly articulate that, you’ve got a winner.

Now, a quick word on discounts as your offer: A discount will work with existing clients or prospects you’ve gone through the full sales process with because they know you and what you’re selling and have shown interest. But it may not be the best “bait” to attract quality prospects. That’s why Groupon fails more than it succeeds; you’re attracting price shoppers.

3. Non-threatening

The offer needs to be non-threatening. If I have to talk to a salesperson, the response will be greatly suppressed UNLESS the offer is strong. Free reports, surveys, information are best served up as “self-serve” without having to talk to a salesperson.

4. Urgency

Finally, the best offers always have a limited supply or a deadline. Our free one-on-one consultation can’t have a deadline because we offer it ongoing. But, other discounts, incentives, bonuses, and free gifts DO have a deadline, and we DO uphold it.

Not too long ago a new client challenged our integrity because he saw some of the letters in the Toolkit making an offer with a limited number (“We’ll only give this free assessment to the first X who respond”). He was in a lather, stating he would give it to everyone and therefore felt making such a statement is lying. I’ll chalk it up to his inexperience in marketing and a deeply rooted mistrust of salespeople in general to elicit the over-the-top response. But it needs addressed: an offer without a deadline WILL be greatly suppressed. That’s why the recent Rainbow Frappuccino from Starbucks was such a huge success — it was something unique that was only being offered for a limited time.

Retailers have used the holiday sale for AGES as a reason for offering a discount, sale, or incentive. Throughout the ages of advertising, any savvy marketer has understood the power of a LIMITED offer, and it can be found in every category from B2B to B2C. It’s designed to increase urgency to respond, which is why it’s done. Whether or not you honor the discount, offer, or incentive after the deadline is entirely up to you. I would recommend you don’t make exceptions, because if you do, you train your clients and prospects that you don’t mean to keep your deadlines.

We have annoyed and even lost a few clients for sticking to our guns with an offer, and occasionally we’ll make an exception based on circumstances and whether or not we can actually fulfill. (For example, if we say we only have X seats in a seminar, we cannot manufacture more, no matter how badly the person wants it.) But if you’re making an offer, it’s best if there actually truly is a deadline, limited supply, or scarcity.


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Robin Robins

Posted by Robin Robins

There is no doubt about it: Robin Robins has helped more MSPs and IT services businesses to double – even triple – sales, profits and MRR growth than any other marketing consultant in the IT services industry, period. As a trusted advisor to over 9,000 IT services business owners for over 18 years, Robin knows a thing or two about what it takes to grow sales, recurring revenue streams and a profitable client base for an IT services business. To discover how you can double your MSP leads, appointments and sales without spending a dime on marketing, go to

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